Published in 108th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Anthropology, January 1, 2009.
Copyright © 2009 Dawn Neill
Parental investment decisions guide the actions parents take regarding child productive work and are shaped by ecological context. Urban ecology modifies tradeoffs to long-term investments in human capital, thereby increasing opportunity costs for children to participate in production and lower levels of work should result. Though child work has an immediate return, parents are expected to trade some level of short-term gain for educational investment that will result in higher long-term returns from experience-based embodied capital. It is predicted that children who perform well in school will do less productive work and that urban ecology will amplify the effect of parental embodied capital on quality-based investments. Using an embodied capital framework, self-reported data on routine activities of urban and rural Indo-Fijian children (6.5-16 years, N=502), are used to examine work patterns. Results show higher workloads in rural areas, for older children, and for girls. High educational performance decreases child productive work for young children and older girls, but not older boys. This daughter-biased investment pattern is interpreted based on qualitative data suggesting parents obtain greater long-term benefits from subsidizing high performing daughters. Urbanization in Fiji is associated with dispersion of extended kin, an increase in divorce, and a shortage of safe, culturally appropriate employment for females. Urban women no longer have extended kin for support, should they become divorced or widowed. By investing in high performing daughters, parents seek to substitute formal skills for the security previously provided by extended kin, thereby assuring access to income and independence for daughters.
Social and Behavioral Sciences